The Brits are hardly known for cutting the edge, but last night’s dribbling shambles placed mediocrity on a pedestal of unprecedented height. Time was, the ceremony celebrated a healthy mish-mash of ballsy pop and alternative fare. The 2013 winners looked more like a rough draft guestlist for a Radio 2 wine tasting.
Does anyone remember Jarvis Cocker wafting his defiant rectal gases at the audience during Wacko Jacko’s 1996 rendition of Earth Song? Did Chumbawumba not drench John Prescott in icy water during the 1998 awards? Surely you haven’t forgotten a rat-arsed Robbie Williams challenging Oasis to a 100k death duel in 2001? What is it you think they were fighting for?
The tensions between perceived high and low culture, working and upper-middle class, urban and alternative are central to the Brits’ rich history as a cultural melting point and site of conflict. And whilst genuine violence may be undesirable, homogenisation is a paltry alternative.
Welcome to the authenticity Frightgeist of 2013. Or should that be 1984? In true Orwellian style, all extremes and signs of diversity have been erased. Welcome to a future where the popstars wield banjos and cars drive on the middle of the road.
Since the announcement of the 2012 Mercury, the government has been diligently pumping subliminal broadcasts into every British home so that no person may hear the trigger ‘Alt-J’ without immediately blurting out the word ‘groundbreaking’ as a response. Radiohead, Hot Chip and Wild Beasts have effectively been erased from the annals of human history.
Continuing in the dystopian vein, the folk genre has been redefined in order to whitewash its lower class roots and even its apolitical 1960s revival. Any twang that might spark a protest or (God forbid) a jig, has been smoothed out and away from the folk tradition, leaving just enough room for public school boys and people whose organic juice companies didn’t quite work out.
So how did the new regime pan out at last night's ceremony? For his breathtakingly reductive impression of Gollum on a piano, BIMM Graduate Tom Odell beat AlunaGeorge to the Brits’ critics’ choice award. Best group Mumford and Sons were little better than a polished version of a bad sausage advert and much lauded Alt-J, whilst often brilliant in sound, belong just as much on the airwaves of Radio 2 as the pages of NME.
Minor dweebs aside, Brit Brother’s head boy and girl were wistful drawler Ben Howard and office quirk Emeli Sande. The former, a slightly less threatening Damien Rice whipped the best male rug from under Calvin Harris’ size 16 feet whilst surreptitiously pickpocketing Jessie Ware for the breakthrough award.
It was a shit night for British women in general as Sande was one of only two to receive an accolade. The other female prize went to Adele, whose dreary bond theme won best single. The category itself boasted some quality mainstream pop and dance numbers but no track could challenge the subdued post-Olympic pride that crowned ‘Skyfall’.
The international solo categories offered some consolation in the form of winners Frank Ocean and Lana Del Rey, whilst Paul Epworth was a worthy recipient of the British Producer Gong. Bizarrely, a novelty prize for global success was added, presumably to appease commercial pressure for a One Direction award without having to sully a ‘serious’ category. Similarly, the shortlist for best live act showed a blistering lack of imagination in its insistence that live equals guitars.
As yet, the powers that be haven’t quite got round to deleting the Wikipedia entry for the Brit Awards 2003. Ten years ago, the Sugagbabes were battling Oasis for best British group whilst the solo female shortlist boasted the diversity of Beth Orton, Ms Dynamite and Sophie Ellis Bextor. That kind of polarity is nowhere to be seen in 2013. Whatever happened to Ginger Spice’s melon-busting Union Jack dress or Bjork’s grateful grapefruit?
The Brit Awards have always been a shambles but they were always our fucking shambles. Pop stars fought rock stars and people got drunk and flashed their tits and jumped up on tables and got carried off stages. In a heaving, utilitarian effort towards sincerity, we’ve let the whole thing go to the dogs.
This is exactly how Stalin’s Russia began.